I’d start by saying this is the best Australian horror movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s actually the only Australian movie I’ve ever seen. Still, for a gory slasher flick verging on torture porn, this one far exceeded my expectations.

It also boasts possibly one of the best psychotic villains in recent years, as well as a great soundtrack selection, but let’s take it from the top:

The film begins with Brent and his dad in the car; dad is clearly enjoying himself, singing along to the radio, while Brent is behind the wheel. Suddenly a rail-thin, bloody young man is standing in the middle of the country road, but Brent doesn’t see him in time; he swerves to avoid the boy and wraps his car around a tree, killing his dad.

As far as opening scenes go, this one was really effective. Then the movie slows down a bit.

Six months later, the aftermath of his father’s tragic death is obvious; Brent’s mother is a lifeless mess, blaming her son for the accident, while Brent self-medicates with pot and loud heavy metal music. The only ray of light in his life is his beautiful girlfriend, Holly.

It’s the end of the school year and Brent is going to the prom with Holly, having refused an offer by Lola, a rather shy, plain-looking girl. His tubby best friend Jamie, whose only raison d’être in the movie is to provide some comic relief, finally scrapes up the courage to ask gorgeous goth Mia to the prom.

School lets out and we get the obligatory sex scene when Brent is getting it on with Holly in her car, as he doesn’t drive since the accident. Holly keeps pressuring him to reveal the identity of the other girl who asked him to the prom, while the camera pauses long enough for us to take a look at the self-inflicted cuts on Brent’s torso and the razor hanging from his neck. When Brent finally admits it was Lola, the camera pans out to show us Lola watching the couple’s tryst. Girl is certainly creepy.

Later, Brent is off smoking pot by himself in the countryside, when he’s attacked from behind by a man; he is captured and then driven off to a mysterious location, leaving his phone behind.

Jamie arrives at Mia’s to take her to prom and we meet her parents, both of whom look subdued. Mia herself is moody, rude and antisocial, like you’d expect from any highschool goth chick. Brent, on the other hand, never makes it to Holly’s, and neither her nor his mother’s attempts at calling him yield any results. Things suddenly turn gruesome when Brent’s dog shows up at the house, whimpering and clearly wounded. Holly tries to rush the poor dog to the vet but he dies on the way. [I really could have done without this part, but it serves its purpose of portraying just how awful whoever is behind this really is.]

Brent’s mom calls Mia’s father, who’s the local police officer, but he doesn’t seem too worried, as Brent is prone to disappearing and then turning up later. The dog, however, gets his attention, so he goes looking and eventually finds Brent’s ipod on the side of the road.

Meanwhile, Jamie and Mia’s prom night is pretty awkward and consists mainly of the two of them smoking pot in the car and headbanging to loud music.

Brent’s prom night, on the other hand, is a different story. He wakes up tied to a chair in a house that’s been converted to a high school dance setting, complete with disco ball and pink-satin-gowned Lola, the girl he had rejected. Although slow to start with the actual horror, the movie really picks up from here.

Lola isn’t alone in the prom-setting/dining room scene: her father and ‘Bright Eyes’ join her at the table, where they proceed to inject Brent’s vocal cords with bleach to keep him from screaming (is that a thing? Wouldn’t the bleach damage a hell of a lot more than just his voicebox?) as they enjoy a nice chicken dinner.

Lola is in full-prom queen mode, dad’s in a tux and poor Bright Eyes looks lobotomized, which the healed-up circular scar on her forehead seems to confirm.

The tagline really says it all:

Prom night can be torture.

[plenty of spoilers from this point on]

prom

Lola shoves a drumstick shoved in Brent’s face and then forces him to suck on her chicken-smeared fingers and admit the meal was ‘finger licking good’; when he asks to go to the bathroom, Lola gulps down a glass of milk and offers it to him to relieve himself. It’s not easy to make the innocent act of drinking milk look so creepy, but Lola definitely pulls it off. She unceremoniously unzips his pants and tells him to pee as she’s counting down, or her (insanely creepy) Daddy will nail his penis to the chair. Ouch.

Brent does urinate at the nick of time, and even manages to untie himself and push Lola off him as he hops towards the door, making his escape. He cuts the rope off his feet and makes a run for it, with Daddy in the car, chasing him around the yard, until he finally climbs up a tree. What a perfect opportunity for some father-daughter bonding time, as Lola and Daddy throw rocks at Brent, eventually knocking him down on the hood of the car with a loud thud.

Back inside, Brent is tied to the chair again. To ensure he won’t go anywhere this time, and as punishment for hitting his daughter, Daddy grabs a hammer and nails his feet to the floor with a couple of steak knives, while Lola sits on Brent’s lap. The prolonged torture scene is gruesome and pretty painful to watch, as Brent screams in agony as much as his incapacitated vocal cords will allow, but this is only the beginning.

Meanwhile, Jamie and Mia finally decide to actually go to the dance, where Mia starts giving him on over-the-pants handjob, which promptly gets them kicked out. They continue to have sex in the car at the school parking lot, only to get kicked out of there, as well.

As the prom night from hell unfolds, we get to see Lola flip through her scrapbook of ‘loved ones’ as she explains to Brent that none of her ‘kings’ was The One, and we realize that not only was the bloody boy from the opening scene yet another one of her victims, but also that he was  in fact Mia’s brother, which effectively explains her entire family’s demeanor.

With Bright Eyes tucked in for the night, we’re back on the torture: unable to scream and nailed to the floor, Lola now treats Brent’s torso effectively like a tree trunk, carving her initials on his chest. With a fork. Daddy is being very encouraging, and after a brief, nailed-to-the-floor dance with Brent, she tells him he’s just a frog like all the others, and her prince has always been her Daddy. This father-daughter team puts Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses gang of lunatics to shame. How much more demented can this family be?

A lot, apparently. There’s a trapdoor on the floor and beneath it is a basement full of Daddy and Lola’s previous victims, who fell short of her expectations and were thrown in there to starve to death. Brent’s frog status now decided, that’s where he’s headed, but not before he gets the same treatment as the rest of them: It’s now time for the drilling – her first, as she informs Brent. Not only is the poor guy about to get savagely lobotomized, he’s also going to be the crazy chick’s guinea pig? Not a good night for Brent. 

Not since that (otherwise mediocre) Hannibal movie have I seen such a disturbing lobotomy in a movie, but at least the scene with Ray Liotta was hilarious. This one is the opposite of funny. Daddy holds Brent’s head steady as he gives Lola instructions to use just enough force to pierce the skull, and we see dust and smoke rising from the hole in Brent’s forehead as he struggles and gets bloodier by the second. Ew.

Next, it’s boiling water time. Apparently if you want to lobotomize someone, all you require is your trusty drill and kettle: you gouge a big enough hole on someone’s skull and then pour some boiling water into their brains, and ta-da! Take note, all you psychopaths out there.

But Lola hasn’t drilled a big enough hole, and while Daddy starts to widen it, Brent manages to free himself using his razor blade necklace and slashes Daddy’s throat. He yanks the knives out of his feet and uses one of them to stab Daddy in the neck repeatedly. For a guy bleeding like a stuck pig, Daddy sure takes his time dropping dead. Lola freaks out and there’s a little scuffle but Brent manages to knock her out long enough to push Daddy into the basement.

The starving, lobotomized victims fall on Daddy, as this has obviously been their first snack in ages. Brent’s temporary triumph is very short-lived, however, as Lola is furious and grief-stricken. She pushes Brent in and angrily hurls any object she can find nearby at him, including a flashlight and a hammer. She shuts the trapdoor and goes upstairs to finish Bright Eyes off by smothering her with a pillow, and this is where our suspicions that Bright Eyes is actually Mommy are confirmed. Again, could this family be any more insane?

As all of this is going down, Holly tells the policeman (Mia’s father) about Lola on a hunch, and he makes his way to the crazy family’s home. Meanwhile, Brent manages to use the objects thrown in by Lola to kill the poor lobotomized cannibals in the basement, who are obviously not full from the Daddy appetizer and look at Brent as their entrée. [By the way, how confusing is food terminology in english-speaking countries? Entreé is the main course in american English but it literally means entrance in french, and it means appetizer or small course everywhere else in the world, including France, Australia and the UK. Anyway, back to the movie]

As the cop enters the house, Brent makes as much noise as he can, leading him to the trapdoor. But when the cop opens it, Brent is unable to warn him that Lola has crept up behind him and before he can do anything about it, she plants a butcher knife in his skull. The cop falls into the basement, along with his gun, which Brent uses to shoot at Lola, but he’s not fast or accurate enough, and the gun is empty before he can take a decent shot at the psychopath. She informs him that she’s on her way to kill his mother and girlfriend and off she goes. (Oddly, on foot).

Perhaps the image of a bloodied Lola, still in her prom dress, butcher knife in one hand and scrapbook in the other, walking down the street, is the most haunting scene in the movie. And in a movie replete with terrible images, that’s really saying a lot. 

Lola

Lola sees Holly’s car approaching and steps over to the side of the road; as Holly drives past her, she hurls her scrapbook at her VW Beetle. Holly screeches to a halt and sees the loose pages full of the victim’s photos floating down, putting two and two together, but, like Brent, she’s not fast enough. We get the obligatory stare-down between the two, which is a bad idea but somehow always a staple in horror movies. This gives Lola time to launch an attack on Holly as she eyes her boyfriend’s razorblade necklace now hanging from the psycho’s neck. The two struggle and Holly manages to plant a good kick and run away.

Back in the basement, Brent uses the cop’s body and the heaping piles of bones to climb out of there, gets in the cop car and speeds off to stop the crazy bitch, as Holly is running and Lola is chasing her, knife still in hand, a few feet behind.

Brent sees them in the distance, and with Lola squarely in his sights, he floors it and crashes into her, throwing her in the air, up and over the car. Holly opens the door, looks inside, understandably freaks out and then hugs her tortured boyfriend.

But like any good villain, it will take much more than that to finally kill Lola: gravely wounded – the broken wrist with the bone sticking out is a nice touch – but still clutching the knife, she uses it to slowly but purposely crawl down the road towards the car.

When Brent hears the sound of the knife against the asphalt, he notices her in his rearview mirror and does the one thing we’ve all been waiting for: puts the car into reverse and steps on the gas, as we see the bumper approaching from Lola’s point of view, until it finally connects with a very satisfying thud.

Brent and Holly drive home to find his worried mother and they all embrace. The end.


Verdict:

Aside from the huge incompetence of the police and the total absence of any back up (is there just one cop in this entire hick town?), the fact that Brent was able to not only drive a car but actually climb up the basement even though his feet were mangled by oh yeah, having knives nailed into them not so long ago, is a bit of a stretch, but hey, nothing about this movie is incredibly realistic to begin with.

We also never find out exactly what happened to Mia’s poor brother; we know he’s the boy that caused the accident in the beginning, but we also know he was never recaptured by the crazy family, so what happened to him? He was the one that got away, literally, and Lola says ‘he’s probably dead now’ but really, a bloody waif of a boy wandering in the boonies pretty much sticks out like a sore thumb; surely someone noticed him, or at least found the body? And what about all the other missing kids? If this were a Hollywood movie, we’d at least see some hint at an FBI manhunt, but I guess missing kids go unnoticed down under?

Eh, I’ll buy it. As far as horror flicks go, this one had it all: a couple of psychopaths, a lot of gory torture and the requisite sex scenes to tie it all in. The addition of Mia and Jamie’s side story initially seems superfluous, but the awkward date works as a nice juxtaposition to Brent’s horrible prom experience; it also helps explain Mia and her family’s forlorn appearance.

But what really makes it stand out among other teenage horror movies is the fact that none of the (excessive) violence seems gratuitous; it all serves a purpose, and that’s to convey the pure deranged evil of Lola and Daddy. As rejected-teen-turned-villain goes, Lola really takes the cake. She’s the quintessential sociopath, and Daddy makes the perfect sidekick; it’s unclear which of them is the worst, but in the end we don’t really care. Is Daddy Lola’s reluctant enabler, or is she his promising apprentice? Whatever the case, in their own unhinged, sadistic way, they complement each other perfectly, and are captivating to watch.

The soundtrack is also very cleverly chosen. From the heavy metal tracks playing during Brent’s alone time and Mia and Jamie’s date to the sweet little ballad ‘Not Pretty Enough‘, which not only perfectly accentuates just how creepy Lola is but is also terribly catchy, each song fits in perfectly.

Moral of the story? If a girl asks you to prom, freakin’ say yes

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